Today I want to share a piece that closes out my book “Coming Home.” I wrote it when I was still in my twenties in our first year back at the ranch. I was seeing this place through new eyes, realizing what time can do to us, clinging tight to the things that made me as I was discovering them again.
Those gray hairs I talk about are pushing through strong and I realize in the re-reading, I didn’t define what “grown up” actually means. Is it now? Is it ever?
I grab my flannel and go look for crocuses.
When I grow up
When I grow up I want to be the kind of woman who lets her hair grow long and wild and silver. When I’m grown I hope I remember to keep my flannel shirts draped over chairs, hanging in the entryway and sitting on the seat of the pickup where they are ready and waiting for me to pull them on and take off somewhere, the scent of horsehair on the well-worn sleeve.
When I grow up I want to remember every spring with the smell of the first buds blooming on the wild plum trees what this season means to me. When I grow up I pray I don’t forget to follow that smell down into the draws where the air falls cooler the closer you get to the creek and the wind is calm.
When I grow up I hope I don’t find I have become offended by a bit of mud tracked from boots onto the kitchen floor. I hope I keep the windows open on the best summer evenings with no regard for the air conditioning or the dust, because a woman can only be so concerned with messes that can be cleaned another day, especially when she needs to get the crocuses in some water.
When I’m older and my memory is full, I hope that the smell of damp hay will still remind me of feeding cows with my dad on the first warm day of spring when the sun warmed the snow enough to make small rivers to run on our once frozen trail. I hope it reminds me how alive I felt wading in that stream while he rolled out the bale and I tested the limits of the rubber on my boots.
And when my hair turns silver I hope I remember that my favorite colors are the colors of the seasons changing from brown to white to green to gold and back again. I pray I never curse the rain and that I don’t forget that next to the rosy flush in my baby’s cheeks, rain is my favorite color of them all.
Yes, when I’m old and my knees don’t bend the way they need to bend to get me on the back of a horse, I hope I’m still able to bury my face in her mane, to run my hands across her back and lean on her body while I remember the way my spirits lifted as she carried me to the hilltops.
I hope I recall how the first ride of spring made my legs stiff, my back creak and my backside sore, even as a young woman with muscles and tall boots.
Yes, boots! When I am old I hope I will wear my red wedding boots every once in a while and remember how I stood alone in them out in the cow pasture as a young woman waiting for the horses and wagon to come over the hill and take me to the oak tree where my friends and family gathered and the man I loved was waiting to marry me.
My red boots will remind me, so in all the shuffle and lost things that become our lives, I hope I remember to save them.
And as I watch the lines form on my husband’s face, little wrinkles around his eyes from work and worry, I hope I remember to say something funny, to tease him a bit, so I might be reminded again how he got the most important ones, the ones that run the deepest.
Yes, when I’m old and my hair is silver and long and wild, I hope those things that made me—the dirt turned to mud, a good man’s laughter, the soft breath of my child asleep on my chest, the strong back of a horse, the rain that falls on the north buttes and the scent of summer rolled up in a hay bale at the end of a long winter—will be there to see me out, happy and softened and weathered, just like the flannel I’ll remember to leave draped over the chair…